NATCA Director of Safety and Technology Jim Ullmann participated on a panel at the Air Traffic Control Association’s Blue Skies conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6, focusing on the future of the National Airspace System (NAS) and discussed how operations will shape the next phase of modernization. Moderated by David Grizzle of Dazzle Partners, the panel consisted of industry professionals Sean Cassidy (Amazon Prime Air), Kevin Hatton (Space X), and Chris Martino (Helicopter Association International).
Grizzle began the discussion by asking the panel what was needed from the airspace and what their respective companies anticipated needing in the future. Hatton discussed the importance of flexibility, while Cassidy emphasized the need for tools and technologies that promote safe integration into the NAS. Ullmann conferred to controllers needing the right tools to do their jobs.
“With the integration of UAS into the NAS, controllers don’t know what to expect,” Ullmann said. “So it’s important that they are given the right tools to adequately do their jobs.”
Grizzle also asked the panel about the role of operations in performance-based approaches in addition to desired outcomes in the NAS. It was stated that the FAA is moving towards performance-based approaches, versus prescriptive approaches. Ullmann stated that controllers have to be 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. He continued that NATCA continually emphasizes the importance of workforce buy-in with controllers, or else the outcome is not going to be successful.
In closing, Grizzle asked the panel to identify one lesson learned from their current NextGen experience that will be helpful for the future of NextGen. Martino suggested that the industry continue to listen to the FAA on what needs to be done, and new entrants into the NAS should always apply legacy knowledge for the safety of all. Ullmann stated that there was no clear roadmap for controllers to follow.
“There needed and needs to be more discussion between the different entities within the FAA to talk about what’s most important,” he said. He also emphasized the need for controllers to be involved in the operational processes in the beginning phases. “We need to bring the workforce in early and often,” he concluded.